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Exclusive Q&A with Cloud Computing CEO Michael Crandell

RightScale's head honcho on Achieving Profitability in the Rapidly Advancing Cloud Market

"We are in an ideal position to accelerate our business to continue our leadership in this rapidly advancing cloud market," says RightScale CEO Michael Crandell, in this Exclusive Q&A with the editor-in-chief of SYS-CON's Cloud Computing Journal, Alan Williamson. "We decided the timing was right to create a war chest that would take us to profitability," Crandell added. Earlier this month RightScale snagged $13M in a Series B round of venture funding.

Here's the interview in full:

Cloud Computing Journal: $13M is quite a chunk of change to raise in this climate. Was this about what you required? Was it more or less than you asked for?

Michael Crandell: We raised exactly what we set out to raise. This year we've seen a lot of interest from investors, and so we decided the timing was right to create a war chest that would take us to profitability. At the same time, we've gotten the best VCs we could hope for: Danny Rimer of Index Ventures and Kevin Harvey of Benchmark add tremendous value on our Board. Now, we are in an ideal position to accelerate our business to continue our leadership in this rapidly advancing cloud market.

Cloud Computing Journal:
Where are you going to be spending that money?

MC: We'll use the funds to accelerate product and market development of our core management platform, including support for new clouds, continuing to build our ISV and developer communities, and expanding into additional geographic markets.

Cloud Computing Journal:
RightScale has built up its business from Amazon EC2 customers, what plans have you to broaden this to other cloud providers? Are the other cloud providers ready for prime time?

MC: In September, we announced support for GoGrid and Flexiscale clouds, and an ongoing cooperation with Rackspace as they roll out their cloud offerings. Amazon remains in the lead in terms of functionality, scale, and adoption. But clearly we're moving to a multi-cloud market, and helping customers take advantage of the freedom and choice that provides is a key target for RightScale.

Cloud Computing Journal:
For many people, they see Amazon as the only cloud provider. Is it healthy for any one company to dominate the industry so much at the start?

MC: Amazon has done a brilliant job pioneering this space, and seen impressive growth. They have almost single-handedly commercialized the notion of pay-as-you-go, on demand, virtually infinite outsourced IT infrastructure. In that sense, their leadership has established the de factor standard and that's been very healthy for customers. As the market continues to evolve rapidly, other cloud players are entering and differentiating their offerings -- which adds the critical capability for businesses to avoid single-source vendor dependency. Compared to other innovations in tech history, cloud computing is unfolding very rapidly and in an open and healthy way.

Cloud Computing Journal: At the moment RightScale doesn't provide a one-stop service; I have to pay you and Amazon. Are there plans to give me as a customer one billing point?

MC: We're working on that. Stay tuned.

Cloud Computing Journal:
For all the hype and pomp of cloud computing, what do you see as the biggest myth that is circulating just now?

MC: Some seem to think that cloud computing eliminates the need for good system design and management: everything will happen "automagically"! There are real advantages to be gained from cloud deployments in terms of automation, simplification of system administration, and reliability and performance -- but achieving these still depends on well-designed solutions. That's central to what we provide at RightScale: automated management utilizing best-practices in multi-cloud design that maintain transparency and IT control for the customer.

Cloud Computing Journal:
Many analysts see the private cloud as the area that will make the real money from cloud computing? What are your plans to support the private cloud?

MC: We think the public cloud is going to continue it's explosive growth. We hear frequently from customers about running out of data center space, data center power, data center budget, and data center patience (i.e., long internal IT lead times). There is tremendous pressure to leverage the cost and agility advantages of outsourcing IT infrastructure using flexible cloud resources. That said, there will clearly be private clouds in the picture too, and in that area our strategy is to focus on the nexus of the two -- hybrid clouds -- and provide an easy way for corporate developers to utilize both public and private cloud resources when appropriate.

Cloud Computing Journal:
We recently ran our Cloud Bootcamp, where we had your own Thorsten von Eicken come along and take us through some of what you do. What are you finding are the top questions being asked by people new to the cloud space?

MC: People come to us already convinced that moving to the cloud is a compelling prospect -- but they have questions on how best to do it, what the "gotchas" are, and what they should expect. Basically, they're looking for guidance and a fast on-ramp to deploying in the cloud, and a system they can use to support the lifecycle of development and deployment, which is exactly what we provide.

Cloud Computing Journal: Take us 12 months into the future. When I login to my RightScale dashboard, what will I expect to see and what will I be able to do?

MC: You'll see more automation control, more clouds supported, more pre-packaged solutions from ISV partners. You'll also see an active, growing community of developers sharing information about using RightScale as a cloud management platform. All this will give you, the customer, the advantage of getting onto the cloud fast, building your application on best-practice solutions for resiliency and performance, reducing your system administration overhead, all the while maintaining transparency & control to customize any layer of the stack as needed.

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, http://alan.blog-city.com/ or e-mail him at cloud(at)alanwilliamson.org.

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